Guest columnist: Greed, Power, and Lies: How the Fayette County School Board has destroyed affordable housing in Fayette County, Kentucky.
[Editor’s note: this guest column does not reflect the views and opinions of The Lexington Times, which formally endorsed the tax increase. We do, however, welcome readers of all viewpoints to submit their perspectives for the record on all local topics.]
By Steven Lawrence
The Fayette County School Board conducted a meeting on September 8 and voted to increase your property tax rate by 6%. It was devoid of transparency, input from the most important agencies, and refused to permit questions during the meeting. It was an insult to the citizens of this county and an affront to our democratic style of governance.
State law allows taxing districts to gain a 4% increase in property tax revenue per year without public input or other extra measures. When growth in the property tax roll itself results in an increase in property revenue of more than 4%, the tax rate will go down to keep total revenues to a 4% increase.
Specifically, about 75% of all property owners would have seen their 2022 tax bill decrease while the schools would have seen a 4% increase in total property tax revenues. This course of action would have benefited everyone in our community. I will state the facts again: 75% of property owners would have had a tax bill decrease and the school board would have received a 4% increase in total property tax revenues!
The board was not satisfied with a 4% increase in total revenue. Do your own research. Inflation is at a 40 year high. A large percentage of our citizens are living paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford another increase in rent.
The board counts on your ignorance of the tax code. They use it as a weapon against you. They create the illusion of a meeting to inform the public but manipulate the process at every step to ensure their desired outcome. These people, other than the lone truthful voice of Stephanie Spires, are drunk on power. They disguise their every move behind the sacrosanct banner of, “…it’s for the education of our children…”
The basic provisions of House Bill 44 for local governments and school districts provide three options:
- adoption of a compensating rate;
- adoption of a 4% increase tax rate; or
- adoption of a rate that will produce more than 4% additional revenue.
The board only presented two options. Yes, they rigged the outcome. Do your own research.
During the meeting, Mr. Houston Barber stated that a 4% increase is really a loss over the next 15 years because of compounding. Only in the world of “fuzzy math” could a 4% increase in revenue be considered a loss. How professional it would have been to have the PVA, David O’Neil, at the meeting to present the facts. We have a rot inside our school board, and it is need of abundant sunshine. Where is our media speaking Truth to Power?
- Why did the board fail to invite a single person from the Property Valuation Office? They could have explained the options, statues, and requirements.
- Why were no questions allowed during a public meeting run by public servants for the public good?
- Why did you need five police officers in the meeting room?
- Why did you only present two options instead of the three offered by the state?
- Why did you allow 40 minutes for the option you favored and only 8 minutes for the other option?
- Mathematically, how is a 4% increase in revenue a loss?
- Why are you spending a king’s ransom on office space when you claim such needs in the schools?
- Why such short notice and limited communication for such an important public meeting?
All good citizens of this county should support a recall. Even if you support a 6% increase in revenue, you should not allow this type of anti-democratic meeting to become precedent. Let the people decide a 4% or a 6% increase. Demand that meetings such as this include the PVA. Allow citizens to ask relevant questions. Fight for honesty and transparency from our public servants.
Steven Lawrence is retired federal law enforcement. He obtained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during his service in the US Army, where he was a combat historian in Iraq. His views do not reflect those of The Lexington Times.
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